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My transportation wish list for 2008

As I began to write my editorial this month, I noticed my eight-year- old son quietly working away at preparing his Christmas list - and I'm sure he'll be checking it more than twice (just like I'm su...


Viewpoint Lou Smyrlis Editorial Director
Viewpoint Lou Smyrlis Editorial Director

As I began to write my editorial this month, I noticed my eight-year- old son quietly working away at preparing his Christmas list – and I’m sure he’ll be checking it more than twice (just like I’m sure that yellow Labrador he’s been lobbying for the last two years will be on it.)

So I thought I would follow his example and prepare my own wish list for the industry this coming year:

My first wish is that carriers and shippers find smarter alternatives to the below-cost pricing going on in some lanes.

The current shortage of freight is creating a bargain mentality when it comes to rate shopping. As Scott Johnston, president of Yanke Group, pointed out at our recent shipper-carrier roundtable, contracts in a lot of cases these days don’t seem to be worth the paper they’re written on. No sooner are they signed than the carrier finds there is rate action taking place and he’s back revisiting the customer. I fully understand shippers are also under considerable pressure during a slowing economy to reduce their costs. Transportation costs as a share of revenue can look pretty wonky when revenue is dropping. However, it’s wise for shippers to remember what another member of our roundtable, Bob Ballantyne, who as head of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association speaks for some of the largest shippers in the country, advised: “You don’t do yourself any favours if your suppliers are losing money. We try to encourage our members to take a longer term view in dealing with carriers.”

For me that longer term view involves investing in technologies and practices -online dock scheduling, electronic tendering, capacity forecast sharing and incentive based contracts, to name a few – that help boost efficiencies for both the shipper and the carrier. And it also involves carriers adopting pricing strategies that are sophisticated enough to retain the competitiveness of their clients by doing away with rate volatility.

My second wish is that the provinces considering backing away from their commitments to adopt Canada’s new standard for hours-of-service stop their small-time thinking and consider the good of the industry, and our country, as a whole.

As Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley correctly points out:”From the outset of discussions more than 10 years ago to put a new hours-of-service rule in place, a fundamental -perhaps the most important -undertaking given to the trucking industry by the federal and provincial governments was that the new regulations would be uniformly applied across Canada as a National Safety Code standard instead of a hodge-podge of inconsistent provincial regulations.”

In this age of world trade, great countries have great transportation systems. Also-runs have transportation systems hampered by a patchwork of legislation that addresses regional needs while ignoring national aspirations. Which country do we want to be?

So Santa, if you can work on the wish list above, I’ll see what I can do about that yellow Lab. •

-Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at lou@TransportationMedia.ca.


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